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‘Connecting the dots’: A Q&A with published author Dr. Siddharth Goyal

Buildings.

You probably don’t dwell on them as you go about your day. Maybe it’s an office building, and you’re focused on greeting your coworkers and finding your desk. Or maybe it’s a grocery store, and you’re making a beeline for the items on your list.

Either way, the actual building itself? Probably not top of mind.

But perhaps it should be, according to a new book by Divisions Maintenance Group Head of Data Science Dr. Siddharth Goyal.

“Advanced Controls for Intelligent Buildings: A Holistic Approach for Successful Businesses” is all about intelligent buildings, about bridging the gap between the engineering and business worlds to get a better, more efficient society.

“Eighty-seven percent of our time is spent indoors, in buildings,” Goyal said. “That’s the reality. So having healthy buildings, having productive, efficient buildings, can boost everything in your life.”

“Advanced Controls for Intelligent Buildings” was released July 5 by CRC Press. We sat down with Goyal to get a better understanding of the book, why he wrote it and what he hopes it will accomplish.

The following excerpts have been edited lightly for clarity and length.

Q: So, what’s this book about? (In layman’s terms, please, for those of us without advanced science degrees.)

A: The book is about providing a holistic background, from end to end, on advanced controls in intelligent buildings. There are a lot of steps that go into developing any small equipment in a building. Take a thermostat: That’s a small part of the controls in a building, and there are so many steps involved (in making it work). So the book is about connecting the dots from the technical world to the business world and providing a holistic picture so that whoever the stakeholders are, they can be successful.

Q: Who is the main audience?

A: The primary audience of the book is technical people who are involved in doing their day-to-day operations and engineering work. If they want to understand the impact of what they’re doing on society or, ultimately, how it will shape the business they’re in, this book will help them understand that background.

The other stakeholder is businesspeople. Business is more focused on meeting the demands of shareholders or stakeholders. This book provides them the background on what exists in the technology world so they can leverage it better for meeting the same objectives.

Q: You could have written about anything. Why buildings?

A: That’s a very interesting question. Buildings are an important part of our daily life. This is the place where we spend most of our time. Eighty-seven percent of our time is spent indoors, in buildings. That’s the reality. And having healthy buildings, having productive, efficient buildings, can boost everything in your life. That’s why it’s critical to have something on buildings that everyone can understand and incorporate into their activities.

If the technology and business sides are both able to leverage their good sides, it’s going to lead to much better buildings in the future.

Q: What does success look like for this book?

A: (As it stands now), all the hard work that every researcher, every engineer is doing on a day-to-day basis doesn’t actually get incorporated into the products that we use every day. So having more incorporation of those technologies into daily life? That would be ultimate success.

But again, it will take a long time before we can actually have that incorporation. This provides you a background on how we can make that happen. It provides you all the options available to you so you know what would make sense for your business to target, what would not.

Q: You’re the head of data science for DMG, a rapidly growing company. What pushed you into this line of work?

A: I did my bachelor’s in electrical engineering, but I was very excited and interested in aerospace and some of the data that goes behind it. So I did a few projects and internships in different areas. Then I worked in the power industry for a little over a year, and after that, I joined the University of Florida to do my masters and Ph.D. in mechanical engineering.

One may think, what is the connection between mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and data science? My focus or specialization was in controls, which has a very, very strong connection to data, statistics and mathematics. By looking at all the data that is being collected every day – whether we are driving our cars or using our smart devices – how do we actually leverage all this data? It could be so beneficial.

Data always excites me. It could be used for many, many purposes. I hope we use it to solve impactful problems.

Q: Your resume is impressive, including a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering and experience at several prominent companies. What made you choose to work for DMG, a tech company that provides facility maintenance?

A: I chose DMG because of the potential that this industry offers to improve the lives of people to the next level. We spend almost 90% of our time indoors, inside buildings, and this building industry is starting to pick up some advancements in terms of technology.

The facility maintenance industry (as a whole) is very far behind on that curve. I would say facility maintenance is one of the weakest links in the chain, so making that link stronger is going to make the entire chain much stronger.

The opportunity at DMG and the opportunities in this industry are tremendous. And the potential it offers to utilize the power of data, the power of advanced technology controls, is huge.

Q: What advice do you have for someone just starting out in his or her career?

A: Follow your passion. Don’t hesitate to take risks. It’s OK if you fall – try to get up as quickly as possible. And don’t be afraid of uncertain times or uncertain situations, because they are likely to happen no matter where you are. How you handle them, how you respond to them or how you overcome them, is going to define your next path.

Q: OK, last question. Your book is out. It’s available in stores, and you can finally relax. How does that feel, and what have you learned about the publishing process?

A: It’s much more difficult and longer and harder than what I thought from end-to-end. It starts with the idea of what you want to write, but going through the entire process of actually getting to the final stage requires a lot of dedication and motivation and focus.

I’m fortunate to have the support of my family members, my wife, my kids, my brother, my parents, to keep motivating me to finish. Once you start it, you have to finish. Some people may think you can just write it in a few days and then just publish it. No, there are many stages of the process.

I would say the process is long and complex, but highly rewarding at the end. I feel very excited about it. I’m excited that it’s going to have some positive impact on society.

About the author:

Siddharth (Sidd) Goyal, Ph.D., is the head of data science for Divisions Maintenance Group, a technology company that provides facility maintenance for tens of thousands of properties across the United States. Goyal’s role with DMG is to use data to generate business value for both the company and its customers and stakeholders.

Goyal has a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Punjab Engineering College in India, a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the University of Florida, and he is working on an MBA from Marquette University.

He lives in Atlanta with his wife, Lesley, and children, Aakash, 6, and Reya, 4.

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